Monday, 27 January 2014

The W19 Route

Walthamstow (South Grove) to Ilford  
 Wednesday January 22nd 2014

Our previous route, the altogether more frequent and popular W15, had left us on the Higham Hill estate quite close to the reservoirs where we had walked following the W11.  This is clearly some way from Walthamstow so we asked the driver how long he would be and after chatting during his 8 minute break he delivered us back to the start of the W15. When I say start I mean the evening start and finish points along South Grove, though we were travelling mid-day. For anyone who feels short-changed, here is the website for the Argall Industrial Estate.

South Grove itself is not short of modern industrial units and we were rather taken with the outlet that provides ‘all the trimmings’ for wedding banquets, so you have the right colour-matching bows on your chairs to your tableware and presumably bride’s outfits? There was also a branch of Turning Point, the charity which helps former substance users amongst others . In amongst these commercial projects there was a religious outlet also.

Fortunately this bus (run by an entirely different bus company from the W15) had altogether cleaner windows, and by mid-trip the sun was beginning to shine. Most routes run parallel to the railway, so the route eventually makes its way via Selborne Road back to the Walthamstow Bus Station – we were rather sorry, some more than others, to say goodbye to this very well arranged, resourced and (for a bus station) clean operation, as this was the last time we would pass this way.

Our progress down Hoe Street was very slow, the reasons for which were not altogether clear, though having 10 bus routes along here cannot exactly help. This gave us plenty of time to observe the local shops which completely typify the thesis of ‘Arrival City’, namely that the new arrivals set up local shops initially to serve their own incoming community and, if successful, then move on to bigger and maybe better things elsewhere leaving the units for the next generation of incomers. Thus it was no surprise to see the Romanian shop opposite the Polish shop interspersed with a Hydroponics shop, the  Hornbeam Cafe, and Buzz Cutz (only a fiver)  – in spite of its name Jo spotted   the owner going in with rather more facial  and  head hair than his shop might suggest. Clearly we are not the only people to think Hoe Street is a happening place as it featured only last week in the evening free paper.

There was also a local school, by the name of Barclay, having a makeover following the amalgamation of some existing primaries, and we debated whether it would be bright blue and sponsored by the bank? The website certainly has pupils in bright blue blazers.

If it’s Hoe Street heading south it must be ‘The Bakers’ Arms’, with the pub of that name now only existing as a sign. It was important to preserve as it gave its name to the local area.   The Almshouses (this could be a tongue twister the Arms almshouses---)  are just set back and not visible from the bus, certainly not from a single decker, but it is good to see they have been cherished and are lived in.

From there we took a left along the Lea Bridge Road, where more shops caught our attention: a florist called ‘The Only Way is Flowers’ (though chocolates and wine never come amiss), a ‘Spy Shop’ and the offer of live Turkish Football at the pub.
Like the Ws 12 and 15 before us this route turns into the very non-cohesive Whipps Cross Hospital which must have a building from just about every decade except seemingly this one. Though the A&E was updated for the Olympics anything more radical appears to have been abandoned. It does have the UK’s first hyperbaric unit – apparently a sort of chamber which delivers pure and possibly healing oxygen.  
The buses must take about 10 minutes to cross the Whipps Cross site there are so many corners, and of course they drive slowly to avoid any errant patients on the wander...

 After exiting the hospital the bus takes a good few wriggles to deliver and take up passengers at the back of Leytonstone Station, which we thought had been landscaped probably in preparation for 2012  This route also allows the bus to cross over the very busy A12 before tackling the Green Man roundabout. Today we did not head on into Leytonstone but instead took a more scenic route across firstly Wanstead golf course then Wanstead flats.

The area seems to be known as Aldersbrook, though there is no station of that name and suddenly the houses fell away, and those that were still visible were bigger and more often detached, so on the right we saw ponds but no herons for Heronsgate Road and to the left the quite extensive City of London Cemetery and Crematorium. In fact it is one of London’s larger burial grounds and provides a shelter for an extensive range of trees, shrubs and other wildlife; it seems slightly strange that it is only served by this rather infrequent route and the Route101. Having come thus far we occasionally feel entitled to use ourselves as references!
 The end of the ‘flats’ (after all an extension of Epping Forest) and sudden appearance of Manor Park Station as the transition  between the open greenery and the more built up streets of Manor Park come as something of a shock. The traffic slowed here and before long we were passing under the North Circular, over the River Roding and navigating our way into Ilford past its very familiar landmarks – multiplex, library, Town Hall and theatre – Jo did spot that the Library has a museum so we may be back…

This would be, I think our 17th visit to, from or through Ilford but we bear it no ill will. We did once try to walk the one-way system (or was that Romford?)  but as it has a pedestrianized high street and a frequent if grubby train service it has done us well.

 The W19, OUR LAST SINGLE DECKER, had taken just under an hour going from North East London hub Walthamstow through older Leyton and Leytonstone out over the open spaces of Wanstead flats into Ilford which most definitely lies outside the North Circular both in period and feel.  

That’s not quite all folks, we plan to ride our last bus, the X68 which leaves Russell Square at 15.50 PM heading for West Croydon. This will be  NOW BE ON MONDAY February 10th 2014, in case the STRIKE goes ahead midweek. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The W16 Route

28 March 2011

We expect to be very old by the time we blog this bus, which is part of a day with the 158, but there we were at Chingford Mount, and this was the bus which starts there and takes us back towards central London, in that its destination was Leytonstone Station. ‘Where’s the mount?’ demanded Linda of no-one in particular as we waited a few minutes (Mary was helping out in Braintree, so we were missing her).

We were onto the single decker shortly after 10.40, together with a substantial number of other passengers, and were immediately into residential areas.  Most of the housing was semis, with narrow shared driveways between the pairs:  garages in most back gardens, but the preference was to leave the car on the hard-coated front gardens.  We glimpsed some wooded areas, which I think may have been part of Ainslie Wood Nature Reserve  and then crossed the River Ching, a very small stream.  According to Wikipedia , it is ‘backnamed’ from the town of Chingford, rather than being the river that caused the name.  

We travelled parallel to the North Circular for a few metres, before turning left along Fulbourne Road to reach Wood Street Shopping Centre.

Among many other shop fronts, we noted the FEI Charitable Trust Shop, though I’m blowed if I can find out what it’s about, and hope that someone with greater knowledge will enlighten us.  We were also surprised by a shop front referring to the USSR:  why is it OK to reference a regime that competes with Hitler’s Germany for top (or bottom) spot in foulness?

With the Duke’s Head Pub (though without the apostrophe that I’ve added) we were more at home, the Iron Duke looking rather rakish in the sunshine.  And we always enjoy a cop shop that really does look like a shop.  

We noted a ‘spy shop’ which guarantees the privacy of its clients, though presumably not that of those they spy upon. Also a handsome building now put to the most depressing of uses: lending money to people who should have access to less outrageous forms of borrowing.

We also spotted the ‘Sense’ Charity Shop. I have met people who imagine that German Measles is a harmless disease and immunisation is not necessary.  Their views might change if they met someone who suffered from rubella in utero. Perhaps by the time you read this, rubella will have been eradicated as small pox was.

Then we were back into pleasant residential streets.  Although this was not a beautiful day, there was enough sunshine to pick up the attractive and eyecatching forsythia and magnolias that embellished many front gardens.

We reached Leytonstone Station at 11.25, only a little later than the suggested time of the bus stop.  So many people had got on and off that it would have been much slower without the Oyster Technology:  I know, having travelled on buses in Milton Keynes over the weekend, and watched the drivers issuing tickets and handing over change.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The W15 Route

Wednesday 22 January 2014

The W15 goes from Hackney Central (or at least the big Tesco's just along from the station) to a remote - or so it seemed to us - part of Walthamstow called Higham Hill.  It was a single decker and, I think, the dirtiest bus we have been on in the five years of the project.  I could have searched through the archive for pictures to illustrate this trip, but instead I shall use the ones that Linda took, and if anyone from Tower Transport reads this, I hope they are suitably ashamed.

Linda and I hopped on board with no wait at 10.00, and the bus was immediately full, and getting fuller with each stop.  We headed out through some blocks of social housing, to reach Homerton Hospital, where a number of passengers got off, whether staff or patients we could not tell, and a further number got on.

We came straight out of the hospital grounds to pass the Wally Foster Community Centre.  I'm not sure who Wally was, though the web tells me that a lot of wonderful things happen at the centre.  Hackney Marsh is once again becoming a football centre:  the disruption of the Olympics will soon be as distant a memory as the onion and potato fields of the Dig for Victory Campaign of the Second World War, which also disrupted sport on the Marshes.

We crossed both the River Lea Navigation, and the River itself, to reach New Spitalfields Market, with many notices indicating that it belongs to the Corporation of the City of London.  There were views to the right towards the Olympic Park, with the Orbit barely visible through our grimy windows. Still, we shall all be able to go up it fairly soon.  There were lots of flood lights and cranes, to accelerate the building works, and here we changed drivers.

Then we came past the overpass of the A12 to pass Leyton Library and High Street, and the Northcote pub.  

At this point a young woman got on, with a suitcase, handbag, and dead Oyster card.  We waited some time while she said she had 'no money' and eventually the driver allowed her to stay on till we reached Leytonstone Station. (how she was planning to continue her journey with no money is not clear, though she may of course have meant that she had no change) The station has an interesting brick art work outside it, which we gather is called 'Time Terminus' and represents various buses as well as incorporating a circular seat for people who are waiting for a real one.  I feel JMW Turner might be proud of Linda's photograph, but it might give you the idea.

On we went, along Fairlop Road, where the houses are quite large and many have replacement windows of the Tudor leaded panes type, to reach Whipps Cross Hospital.  It took some time, and several stops, to complete the visit to the hospital.  It has some fine old buildings, as we have noted before, and some functional-looking new buildings too, but this time we noticed a large expanse of boarded up buildings as well, presumably waiting for redevelopment to begin.

Once we were finally out of the hospital, we headed along Lea Bridge Road, to fork left and come to the Bakers Arms. There is no longer a pub of that name, just a fine inn sign to mark the area.  The two pubs we did pass were the Shoe Laces and then the William IV.  

Now we were coming into Walthamstow, and having a bit of nostalgia about how very often we had been here since 13 July 2009 when we travelled the 20.  We do like the beehive plasterwork of the Co-op's great building, even if their reputation is now less of busy bees and more of specious banking deals.

Heading past the transport hub of Walthamstow Central Station, we carried on to pass the church of St Patrick (actually it's Our Lady of the Rosary and St Patrick) with a fine painting on its front, and a companion Parish Hall and Primary School across the road.

Waltham Forest is building a new Willowfield Humanities College, though progress is at an early stage.  It is conveniently near one of the three railway stations of Walthamstow, namely Blackhorse Road.

As we headed on, we admired the wall painting of a rather period motor car, as well as Ink'd Chronicles which is, of course, a Tattoo Parlour.

As we went past the Lord Palmerston Pub (no, he was not from round here...) we found we were going down hill, though we had not particularly noticed going up, and realised we were heading into the Lea Valley and the end of our ride.  By now we were the only people on the bus.  The last pub we passed was the Warrant Officer, an interesting name, since it denoted an officer with skills, and therefore a warrant, as opposed to an officer with money or contacts who was 'commissioned'.

At 11.10 we arrived at the terminating point of this interesting route, with a fine view of the reservoir as a reward.

We explained to our charming driver what we were doing, and why we would want to ride back to somewhere nearer to our next bus.  He told us a bit about himself, and we wish him really well in the next stage of his career.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The W14 Route

Woodford Bridge (Manor Road) to Leyton Superstores  
Wednesday January 8th 2014

Our first ride of the year saw the three of us – Mary now with some more bus time on her hands – all set to travel round Woodford, greater and smaller. We were lucky, given the recent deluges that have left the ground soaked, to be travelling in dryish, warmish weather.

Our last route, the W13, had left us in the romantically named Woodford Wells (Where is the spa? Where are the healing waters?), which proved to be a desolate stretch of busy dual carriageway road with groups of secondary school pupils walking in opposite directions between what we guessed must be a split site school.  We crossed by the pedestrian subway and caught a 179 back to South Woodford where the 179 crosses with the W14. This we caught to its ‘out of town’ terminus (very nearly in the Green belt), which was the altogether more picturesque Woodford Bridge complete with village green and duck pond. When we asked the driver whether we could stay on board during his ‘rest’ (and why of course) he explained he was already two minutes behind schedule. The picturesque duck pond mainly houses (no, not another Duck House joke) ‘homes’ geese and rats, he said…  Not sure whether they form part of his passenger group but this driver at least seemed confident that the Freedom Pass would not be axed (though perhaps taxed?) as it brings in too many votes.
Enough of nature and politics and back to the bus route. This area is slightly elevated so there was a good view over the Roding valley and we soon crossed under a major route (the M11 I believe) and over the river itself. All these ‘local’ rivers, many of which flow into the Thames, are normally, if not invisible, then modest in size – the Roding like everything this month was quite swollen and energetic in its progress and volume,  but still less of a feature than the major roads.
Crossing the river brought us into a quite different area of  houses – there were at least 6 tower blocks arranged close together plus other housing .Also in Mallards Road (ducks again) there was an impressively large building, which – once we had passed its back gates – we could see was Woodbridge High School. By now the bus was really full, mainly with passengers of a certain age intent on doing their shopping.
An intricate chicane brought us under the rather terrifying junction of North Circular and M11 roads and we progressed (back) into the very sedate South Woodford. This had once been Churchill’s constituency and in many aspects remains as carefully tended as ever with only some of the newer shops – including Creative Biscuit where we had taken a coffee a few buses back – indicating that South Woodford can move with the times.
Just before South Woodford Station and  in good invisibility garb an Inspector boarded but everyone was very law-abiding on this occasion. With standing customers by now we heard the ‘Change of Destination’ announcement (those 2 minutes lost must have counted for something we thought) and hoped that the folk who continued to board were aware of the fact.

South Woodford is well cared for and this route, like the W12, leaves along the Woodford Road bordered on one side by the most magnificent houses, set back within their own greenery along ‘The Drive’. Whether they remain single occupancy was hard to tell as in most areas homes this size have morphed into prep schools or residential homes for older folk.  Woodford Green lives up to its name, though several trees had succumbed to the recent bad weather.  It also has a war memorial and an entirely appropriate statue of Churchill.  There was a bit of a scuffle in 1952, when he spoke to Conservatives here and the Communists came along and heckled. But he kept his seat.
Though we passed Snaresbrook Station we did not go as far as the better known Snaresbrook Crown Court on our approach to Wanstead, another well preserved village-like centre, with a range of independent shops including our first Eel and Pie shop of the day.

We just had time to enjoy George Green (the place not the person) at Wanstead when we came to a halt in a small side road just by the Green Man roundabout, where the very many passengers were emptied into the road. Over half of them were happy enough to take the W13 as it passed but we waited the extra couple of minutes to board the next W14.   
We were definitely puzzled by the arched buildings with   Dutch Gables just off the roundabout They looked as though they should be a an old hospital yet there were Tesco signs all round. It seems possible both are likely; Tesco have built ‘sympathetically’ to fit in with an old hospital, the spirit of which remains in the Green Man Medical centre.

By now this route, still busy, was feeling much more like an Inner London route and we enjoyed the shops along Leytonstone High Street – the Inkkeeper Tattoo shop for one, and another Eel and Pie shop.  On we trundled through what would once have been seen as the old East End making good for themselves and getting property and shops further out of town. Even better was the Grazia Bridal wear shop, as seen on Gypsy Weddings. However neither shop appears to have a website to match the shop front claims..

Jo thought she spotted some ‘New Year Resolution’ runners – the sort that haven’t quite got all the gear yet, and frankly who were lucky to find a ‘dry window’ this week. The bus slowed to allow a wheelchair user and carer to board which gave us time to notice that we were running pretty parallel to major roads and railways.
Once inside the ‘magic circle’ of the North Circular the property looks much older – ornate plasterwork abounded, very often picked out in bright colours but standing up well to the many coats of paint. I was a bit puzzled by the ‘Lord Northcote’ pub as he did not seem to have any very local links. Even more puzzling was the nearby Shepherds Pub which depicted three ? shepherds or possibly musicians named in Lithuanian.
Yet another encounter with a major road and this route twirls its way into a large area of retail: not just ASDA but a range of other outlets, where it comes to a halt – the only route to do so. While twirling, so to speak, we had glimpsed the Olympic Velodrome and remembered we had used Leyton once during the Olympics. We guessed some of the road and retail additions dated from the pre-Olympic building surge to improve the area.
A route of 2 halves and not just because we had to change buses; the W14 will take you from Essex village through post war suburbia, some dense social housing into rejuvenated Inner London.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The W13 Route

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Linda and I were delighted to be joined by Mary on today's outing, and we met at the handsome and interesting station at Leytonstone.  Not only does it have really helpful notices to tell you how to get to your bus stop, but it also celebrates local hero Alfred Hitchcock with some wonderful mosaics, which would test the knowledge of any Hitchock fan, as you can see here.

But we had no time to examine them, as we needed to get to the W13, which would take us to Woodford Wells.  We were on board by 10.10, at first with only one other passenger, but the bus filled up as we went through the high street's shops and businesses to cross the A12 at the huge Green Man Roundabout. There are lots of footpaths and so on underneath it, but it is a huge and depressing road.  Once round the roundabout, we travelled alongside the main road, but not for long, as we were almost immediately into Wanstead.  This is a palce with many marvellous shops and cafes, including 'The Delicataste' and a number of beauty shops at the herbal end of the spectrum.  We were concerned that the Revive Dress Agency might have closed, but its website is still rather fine, so maybe the staff were having a day off.

Coming out of the town, we passed The Galleon and Heronwood Inpatient Facility (as the Care Quality Commission calls it, which is now a mental health and rehabilitation place.  This does give me a chance to recommend one of the websites that we have found most useful and interesting over the life of the project, here explaining the history of this Victorian relic.

The area is mainly residential, with semis displaying a range of replacement windows, and other evidence of proprietorial care. We turned into George Lane, and passed the Railway Bell pub, to reach South Woodford Station.  The bridge over the Central Line brought us to the shopping centre, and we were pleased to see the metal flowers in the middle of the traffic, which we had admired on our previous visit to these parts, together with the lovely glass arcading outside some of the houses

By the way, we passed two pie and eel shops on this trip, which we thought was a reminder that people who had 'made good' in the east end of London have always moved out to this part of Essex. They now of course also have a Waitrose.... 

We were very close to the M11 here, with huge roads acting as feeders. so it was refreshing to get back to the large green space, where there is a statue of Winston Churchill, who was, as you all know, MP for this area for many years.  He did not of course live round here, preferring his house in Kent, but the calm prosperous feel of the area helps to explain his long tenure of the seat

So we carried on along the dual carriageway, with green either side of the road, to come to a stop outside St Thomas of Canterbury Church. He's an interesting saint for veneration in the Church of England, isn't he, since he allowed himself to be martyred to maintain the power of the Pope over the Church in England.

We were surprised that this was the end because we had thought the 'Wells' might indicate something less residential, perhaps more medicinal; but it turns out that the spa which flourished here in the 18th century is long gone.

It was 10.35, and, avoiding the school students, presumably moving sites between lessons, we crossed the busy road by an underpass to head towards our next bus.  The sun was coming out and it was strangely mild and not at all windy, and we had enjoyed our tour of some of the classier parts of Redbridge.